Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vancouver, Canada 4

So there it is in the distance at 320 E. Hastings Street. It's the First United Church Mission, brainchild of the United Church of Canada. When I first saw the roofline and the cross above it there on the edge of Chinatown, I thought, "Yeah. It's

probably just another of those poorly planned, dying churches in an inner city." I thought the church probably didn't represent the community as so many don't. I thought maybe it was a church that only reluctantly served the people outside its doors because all the other members had left. How wrong I was! This church was built specifically to BE the church to those on its doorstep.

Here are a few numbers: mission is 3 years old; 700-1,000 people come through the doors every day; 18 staff; 60 volunteers; 23 sandwich-making groups; up to 200 people call it home on any given day. But don't take my word for it. Visit the church's website and read the mission statement: http://firstunited.ca/mission_statement.htm .

Read the text of "A Song of Faith" included in the mission statement. Has any church you know been as bold, as realistic, as willing to go where the people are? One of their key staff positions is Minister of Hospitality.

Read "Our Presence: In the Heart of the Downtown Eastside." It's a humbling and inspiring vision and commitment. When we drove by, the steps were filled with people who had found a home there. It's truly what Christ is when he came ashore around Lake Galilee--a source of preaching, teaching and healing.

There are plenty of places that feed people's legal addictions to alcohol. Places like the Blue Eagle. Or like the West Hotel. Why is is that they need to hang that big vertical banner next to the hotel name to proclaim "Cold Beer & Wine?"

And these are just the establishments that serve more ordinary residents of the area as well. There are so many more where the tourists and the visitors, the people passing through will likely not get near.

And there still are those traditional sights and aromas of a vibrant ethnic community. Not all poultry and pork that people take home to eat and to add to other dishes, not all of it spends days or weeks sealed and frozen in clear plastic wrap on a styrofoam tray. Some of it is still done the traditional way.

But spend some time with that First United Church Mission site and think about what they have done, what they do on a daily basis. Is a similar mission needed where you live? What's your church waiting for?

Many more sites and reflections from Vancouver to come. Stay tuned, and thanks for this visit!


Pastor Roger

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